You're on holiday, ready to relax, and you've splashed out on a pricey room - and that's exactly when the small failures in hospitality can feel like the biggest
I did an unusual thing this summer, I didn't go abroad on holiday. I've long since felt that I travel too much around the British Isles without my family, so I thought I'd take a few trips closer to home while the sun was out in force in our green and pleasant land.
I'm very passionate about this industry, it's why I've worked at Caterer for so long - I simply can't imagine writing about any other industry. I salute people out there like Fred Sirieix, flying the flag for service, the great hoteliers like Thomas Kochs providing great attention to detail, great customer care, things that - whether you're running a B&B or a five-star deluxe - should be possible for all establishments.
One hotel in particular, though, left me feeling let down, let down for you guys. On an overnight stay with our friends, their kids and mine, we had booked four double bedrooms in a four-star hotel where the rooms, read the guidebook, were "appointed to a high standard". Indeed, its own website described them as "elegant". We were excited to be going away, fresh with news of some excellent GCSE results to celebrate. But the excitement was to be short-lived, met, as we were, by someone on reception with all the charm of a member of the Gestapo. Let's call him David because that was the name on his badge.
David could barely squeeze us in between telephone calls (helping others to navigate to the hotel) and assisting his colleagues with the storing of suitcases under the stairs (yes, despite having started to serve us, these inanimate objects were more important than us living and breathing ones). His manner was terse and unwelcoming. But, 35 minutes later, objective achieved, we made our way to our room.
What a sad and unloved beige and brown room. Small and linear, you could, to be fair, have swung a cat in it, if attempted in the style of an overarm bowl. Hairdryer - check, iron - check, ironing board - check, fully deserving of its four stars, then? But surely four stars mean a bit more than that?
Hey-ho, maybe things would be looking up in the bathroom? Now I don't actually mind a small bathroom as long as it's clean and updated when necessary. Let's face it, bathrooms take a bit of hammering, but you are trying to offer a place in which people want to relax, whatever the circumstances of their visit - work, rest or play.
It's not hard to keep grouting clean, there was no need for the rust stain running down the tiles from the bath rail, paint flaking off the window in large chunks, dark mould underneath the window ledge, a toilet roll holder that spun a full 360 degrees, and the bathroom door, which had been partially planed either side (so that it could close, presumably) left you with the feeling that a previous guest had perhaps "kicked it in". My inner housekeeper was incensed.
So we got washed and dressed and the hell out of there to dine elsewhere. I couldn't help thinking what a missed opportunity for the hotel? No table for eight, no chance to upsell to four adults with their cars parked safely in the car park overnight. I felt tempted to give the hotel some feedback, but do you know what, I was on holiday.
When we checked out the following morning, we decided to do what thousands of people do, we wouldn't stay at that hotel again, we probably wouldn't use that hotel group again, problem solved. But then the problems could so easily have been fixed too - a smile, a bit of elbow grease, a couple of fluffy cushions on the bed, a nail in the wall - it's not rocket science, is it?